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The Evolving Artistic Life Of Las Vegas

7mm-3.jpg

Ugo Rondinone: Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016. Photo by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Courtesy of Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art.
"Seven Magic Mountains" art installation in the early morning light.

When people talk about the arts and entertainment world in Las Vegas, they are often talking about the Strip.

But alongside entertainment on the Strip, there’s an active arts community in our neighborhoods.

And that arts community has been getting attention from national media outlets such as the New York Times.

Are we finally becoming an arts hub? Do we, in fact, have culture with a capital C here in Las Vegas?

Geoff Neuman is the director of the music program at Bishop Gorman High School and a member of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

He's lived in Las Vegas for more than 20 years but he said it is really only been over the last six to eight years that he's heard more and more talk about Las Vegas become a city with a thriving arts and culture scene.

He credits the opening of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts for some of the increased awareness.

"The Philharmonic played at Hamm Hall for many years before we moved to the Smith Center, I felt like the orchestra definitely gained more recognition once we moved into the Smith Center," he said.

He also said people are more interested in the Philharmonic as the artistic direction of the orchestra improved.

Support comes from

Luis Varela-Rico is a visual artist based in Las Vegas and he credits the rise of Las Vegas' profile to resorts bringing in internationally known artists and their works.

He believes Southern Nevada is a great place for visual arts to create and display their works. He believes if the community keeps going in the same direction we'll be on the level of the same size or even larger communities like Phoenix and Los Angeles.

"I think it's something that if we go in that direction the local community will have something more than just the Strip to be proud of," he said.

One of the places where the works of visual artists from around the state are on display is the Barrick Museum of Art on UNLV campus.

Alisha Kerlin is the director of the museum.

She came to Las Vegas from New York and expected to only stay for a few weeks but realized it was far too interesting of a city and an arts community to leave so quickly.

While she's happy to see the growth of the arts in Nevada, she believes there is potential for much more.

"We have, from what I've seen at the Barrick Museum, just a critical mass of people seeking art. We almost fill the museum to capacity when we do a big show or community event" she said, "But the challenge here in Las Vegas and in other cities is that we also need funding and support to sustain them."

It is not just the music and visual arts being created here that is making people outside the state pay attention, there is also the growing writing community.

Amanda Fortini is a journalist and a fellow at the Beverly Rogers Carol Harter Black Mountain Institute.

BMI started in 2006 but Fortini said he really started to make waves in the literary scene when Joshua Wolf Shenk was brought on board as director three years ago. He acquired the nationally known Believer literary magazine and started the Believer Festival.

"That created an uptick in activity and attention," she said, "Also the started bringing in as part of this Believer Festival more national writers, who are coming in and experiencing Las Vegas and then going out, so there is some kind of exchange and cross-pollination happening between the national scene and the local scene on a greater level than there was." 

Fortini said she is not surprised by the attention Las Vegas is getting for it's growing arts and culture scene.

Part of the reason for the growth and the attention is that people from bigger metropolitan areas have moved to Las Vegas and are wanting the kind of galleries, dance performances and theaters they enjoyed in their home towns, Anne-Marie Pereth, the co-founder and artistic director for A Public Fit Theater, said.

"The theater community is really demanding it," she said, "There's two million people who have moved here from other metropolitan cities and they want to go to the theater. They want to go to the Philharmonic. They want to go to the opera. Once they discover this burgeoning theatrical community downtown... they have a strong tendency to support us." 

 

Resources:

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Las Vegas Philharmonic

Nevada Ballet Theater

Winchester Cultural Center

UNLV Calendar of Events - Performing Arts Center

A Public Fit Theater

Cockroach Theatre

Majestic Repertory Theatre

Las Vegas Little Theatre

Rainbow Company Youth Theater

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

Nevada Museum of Art

Nevada Arts Council

Opera Las Vegas

Beverly Rogers Carol Harter Black Mountain Institute

Guests

Amanda Fortini, journalist; Alisha Kerlin, director, Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art/UNLV; Geoff Neuman, director, music program at Bishop Gorman High School; Ann-Marie Pereth, co-founder and artistic director, A Public Fit Theatre Company; Luis Varela-Rico, Las Vegas-based artist

 

 

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